Monday, May 20, 2019

127 - “A Dangerous Dagger” - Granthurg - A Tale of Heroes

Here's how you can read the story a week (two scenes) ahead of everyone else!

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Immediately, instinctively, Granthurg scanned the hall. He had no weapons, no friends, and the only exit he could see right away was the main door which was blocked by a third man. He was the bigger and stronger of the three, a towering stone wall of intimidation.

The two giants stopped before him. One, on the left, was about Granthurg’s height, maybe a little taller, and the other had a full foot and a half on Granthurg. They both wore simple tunics of gray and green and leggings tucked into short boots.

“Y’re Rinkmorr’s hand, aren’t y’?” The shorter one spoke first. The taller one slowly drew a shortsword, but in his hands it looked more like a dirk or a dagger. “There’s a high price on y’r head.”

He stepped forward, then added, “Actually, I couldn’t care less ‘bout y’r head. The high price is on the dagger. So, if I have t’ take y’r head to get it, I will.”

The taller giant said, “So, you can tell us where you’re berthed, and we’ll go search it.”

Granthurg’s eyes narrowed. “And no one has to get hurt, right? I know the story.”

The taller one shifted his sword in his hand. "Well, we've been waiting here for so long, we might have to hurt you anyway," he smiled a gap-toothed grin, "just for fun!"

The dagger they want isn't on the barge. It’s the only weapon I have with me. I might have to use it, but I’m not so sure that drawing it and showing it is a good idea. Granthurg stood in a defensive posture, tense and set.

"How about y' take y'r arguments out int' the street," the innkeeper said in a nervous voice, "so my tables don' get smashed." Nobody moved.

Except that Granthurg caught a motion in his peripheral vision. Someone had stood up next to the far wall and was carefully moving toward the giant guarding the door. He carried a long and twisted staff in his hands. He looked directly at Granthurg and quickly nodded his head.

Granthurg glanced away and saw others across the room trying to catch his eye as well. He breathed in relief. I guess Rinkmorr had some friends here after all!

The tense moment hung in the air, everyone waiting for someone else to move first. Suddenly, Granthurg sucked in a breath and looked past the taller giant’s shoulder, making a face of alarm and surprise.

The taller giant turned his head to see what had happened. Granthurg seized the moment that his ruse had bought him and lunged to his left, jumping to the far side of the firepit. As he did, he saw the man with the staff swing it in a wide arc at the face of the man guarding the door. The mercenary saw the blow coming and raised his arms to block. The stick caught him against his forearms with a hard crack and he wailed in pain.

The shorter giant ran around the fire to face Granthurg. He swung his fist wide in a hook to Granthurg’s face. Granthurg ducked his head and raised his left arm to block the hit. His heart raced. He stepped in and swung his right hand low and up into the man's gut. His attacker stumbled back with a grunt, but didn't drop.

Granthurg backed away and hazarded a look over his right shoulder. The taller giant had followed him around the pit and loomed large as he lunged, sword stabbing forward.

Granthurg braced himself, unsure how defend against both the incoming blade and the first attacker. The man who had been turning the pig on the fire leaned his shoulder into the taller giant, knocking him off his balance and into a table. The legs cracked and chairs tumbled away.

Taking advantage of the distraction, the shorter giant tackled Granthurg and the two of them hit the floor hard. The impact winded Granthurg, and the attacker rolled over and straddled Granthurg's chest and pulled a blade out of his belt. Granthurg, his eyes wide and fearful, flailed his arms up trying hard to block the blade and grab his opponent's wrist. He felt a slashing pain on his right forearm that shot through his shoulder and made him jerk back. A warm trickle ran down his arm.

The attacker shouted in anger and raised the knife up high, pointing it for a plunge down into Granthurg’s neck. Granthurg winced through the pain in his arm and jabbed his right fist straight up into the other man’s belly and ribs. He grunted and dropped the knife, which scratched a line on Granthurg’s cheek and clattered to the floor.

Granthurg punched with his left, then twisted to his side. The giant fell off of him, and they both scrambled to their knees, breathing hard with exertion through gritted teeth and angry faces. A quick flash of bloodied steel appeared in between them, and Granthurg scrambled back, out of breath. His startled gaze followed the hand on the hilt, up the arm, to the scowling face of the man that had been tending the meat on the fire. He pointed the sword at Granthurg’s attacker and yelled at him to stay down. Granthurg looked across the room. The giant guarding the door was not there anymore. Behind him, he saw the third attacker rolling on the floor in pain, over a widening smear of blood.

“Thanks!” Granthurg wheezed through his heavy breathing. The man with the blade kicked hard on the back of the attacking giant’s head, knocking him out cold and dropping him flat on the floor. He smiled and nodded to Granthurg.

Granthurg crawled to the injured giant and rolled him over. His face was twisted in pain and there was a deep gashed stab wound through his side. His blood covered his shirt and pants. “Is there a healer in here?” Granthurg shouted. “Anyone with jade gemstone?” He looked around, into the quizzical faces of those around him. Nobody spoke.

He turned back to the man before him, then shed his own vest and his tunic. He wadded his shirt and pressed the linen hard against the wounded man’s side. The pressure made him wince slightly, from the pain, before he eased and dropped limp.

Granthurg leaned back on his legs and sighed, then stood, taking a deep breath. Everyone in the bar stood in a bit of a daze, but gradually began to rearrange the tables and sit back down. The innkeeper called to a barmaid, a tall girl with strong shoulders, and pointed at Granthurg. She grabbed her towel and moved to his side, taking his arm and wrapping it in the cloth.

“Thanks.” He said softly, then more loudly, “Thank you all!”


<<<>>>



This continues the story of the heroes in Wynne, in Twynne Rivers, in the world of The Hero's Tale, Family Friendly RPGs. Here's more info on The Hero's Tale, and family friendly RPGing. If you like this story, support us at our Patreon!
Thank you: Chet Cox, Genevieve Springer!

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Thursday, May 16, 2019

126 - “Looking for Trouble” - Granthurg - A Tale of Heroes

Here's how you can read the story a week (two scenes) ahead of everyone else!

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As Granthurg walked up the pier to the quay, then to the street, he idly wished that he had brought a cloak with him. The darkening skies brought a damp wind, especially near the river. Normally, he wasn’t bothered by chill in the winter or spring, but it was a bit uncomfortable in the summer when he expected it to be hot. It also wasn’t typically that dark at this time in the afternoon, but already some of the oculi raised up on poles along the street were starting to glow.

He walked east down the RiverFront street. Not too far from the berth where he had docked the barge would be The Old Steersman Inn. If anyone knew where to find Rinkmorr, someone there would tell him. Every time they had passed through Twynne Rivers, which was at least once every couple of weeks, Rinkmorr had stayed there, while Granthurg had slept on the barge as a guard. The last couple of nights he had done the same, partly out of tradition, and partly out of a more intense sense of a need for security. Some people had been willing to kill to get that strange white dagger. He wasn’t quite sure what to do with it, still, but he wasn’t willing to risk anyone of friends getting hurt over it.

He looked up at the clouds. Maybe I’ll actually get a room tonight, instead of sleeping on the barge.

He, Thissraelle, and Eddiwarth had spent a couple of days looking for Karendle. They’d had to be careful about how they dressed and where they went, to keep Thissraelle hidden from the eyes of the Wizard’s Guild. Thissraelle was tense and on edge, looking with suspicion at almost every passerby and every market vendor. She was certain that her father, the Wizard’s Guildmaster, was still looking for her, even if it had been several months since she first ran away from her tower in the guild hall. She and I first met a couple of months ago, here on the RiverFront. ‘Course, that was further downriver, where we were docked then. Karendle was there, too, when she suddenly appeared in that fight...

The search for Karendle was also difficult because they had no idea who she was wanting to meet or where she would look for them. Granthurg had quietly asked a few of the other rivermen if they’d ferried a half-dwarven girl with red hair to the city from Dirae, but nobody said so.

Oddly, none of them seemed to remember Rinkmorr, either. Even the ones that had recognized Granthurg said that they didn’t know his old boss. It doesn’t make sense. I know he had lots of friends in the RiverFront Quarter. Now, it’s like everyone’s afraid to admit they knew him.

Up ahead of him he saw the familiar shape of the Old Steersman, the carved wooden namesake statue in front of the inn. It was of a tall old giant with a bowed back and a long beard. The wood itself had aged and its paint had faded and chipped, adding to the overall look of tiredness in the carved giant’s shadowed face. Light from a large window shone across its back giving it an almost heavenly look.

The Old Steersman Inn. Granthurg recognized the statue and the inn. The entirety of the building was bigger than those next to it. The door was taller and wider and the windows higher. The stone walls of the ground floor were easily three to four feet higher than those of the buildings next to it and the whitewashed wattle and daub upper level towered up high. He had been here many times but had never actually been inside. Rinkmorr had been the one to stay here and Granthurg had stayed with the barge on the docks. Granthurg stepped through the heavy wooden door.

The main hall was huge, with a sunken floor and a high ceiling. He stepped down off the entrance porch onto the floor. It was planked, much like the deck of a barge. As he stepped down, he straightened his back and smiled. He didn’t have to lean or stoop! This inn was built for the river running giants!

The tables were all taller and the chairs stouter than any he had seen in a pub before. There were, perhaps, a dozen or so other rivermen, also giants, sitting at the various tables drinking ales from huge steins. The room was lit by various lanterns and a few oculi, all hung over each table using the same poles and hooks that were usually found on the bow of a barge. Nets and ropes hung from the pillars and rafters above. There was a round central fire pit, lined with large, jagged stones. Above it was a metal cone to direct the smoke into the flue.

Granthurg took in a deep breath of the smell of the roasting pig that was being turned above the pit as he stepped past on the way to the bar. He leaned on the counter and the innkeeper stepped up. Granthurg recognized his face but didn’t recall his name. He’d seen the man on the dock talking with Rinkmorr many times. The innkeeper was taller than Granthurg, by at least a foot, a bit broader around the middle, had thick, wavy gray-black hair, and a long beard full of thin braids. Under the beard was a dark shirt and a messy white apron. The lines in his face showed how many years he had spent himself on the river. A slight glint of recognition may have crossed his face as well as he asked Granthurg what he was to be drinking.

“Just an ale will be fine.”

“One ale!” He poured a tall drink for Granthurg.

Granthurg smiled. “Now, THAT’s a good tankard for a giant. Humans might as well drink from teacups!”

The innkeeper laughed as he set it on the bar. “I think I’ve seen y’ on the docks before, friend. Haven’t I?”

“Yeah. I’ve worked the river as a deckhand for a few years. My boss used to stay here a lot.” Granthurg took a drink.

“But now y’ve got y’r own craft?”

Granthurg set the tankard down and sighed satisfaction. The innkeeper nodded a thank you. “Yeah, I do. At least I think I do. I’m not really sure.” Granthurg looked at the eyes of the innkeeper, wanting to see if he could be trusted. “Actually, I’m looking for my barge’s owner. I haven't seen him in a while and I need to talk to him.”

“I’ll bet I know pret' much every giantish river runner that passes through Twynne Rivers. What's his name?"

"Rinkmorr."

Immediately, the old innkeeper hissed through his teeth, looked out over Granthurg's shoulders, then leaned in closer to whisper, "Get out."

Granthurg leaned back, shocked.

The innkeeper repeated, with greater urgency, "Get out. Now!"

"I- Ah- I'm sorry..."

"Don’t be sorry. I'm not angry. I'm helping y' get away." He tried to nudge Granthurg away. "There'r dangerous people that’ve been looking for Rinkmorr. They say he's got somethin' of theirs. They may've killed him already. Now go on!"

"Wait. Who is looking for him?"

"No time for-" The innkeeper was backing up. "Nope. Too late."

Granthurg spun around. Two large Giants were walking towards him, past the fireplace. A third was standing with his arms crossed in front of the door.

...And, of course, I left my hammer on the barge.


<<<>>>



This continues the story of the heroes in Wynne, in Twynne Rivers, in the world of The Hero's Tale, Family Friendly RPGs. Here's more info on The Hero's Tale, and family friendly RPGing. If you like this story, support us at our Patreon!
Thank you: Chet Cox, Genevieve Springer!

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Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Noblebright Fantasy

I just discovered something very exciting, and I want to share it!

Actually, to be more accurate, I discovered that something I already liked and believed in has a name and a movement, and I want to share that!

In the world of words, of writing and reading, a lot of fuss is made about the taxonomy of genres. It seems that each author wants to have their own sub-sub-sub-sub genre. Well, I have just found the one I want to be shelved into!

The name of this subgenre is “Noblebright”, and since I write fantasy, it becomes “Noblebright Fantasy”. The idea is ages old, but in modern publishing parlance it arose out of a reaction to the “grimdark” subgenre. In grimdark, there are few, if any, good guys. Everybody is out to better their own position and win in the dog-eat-dog world of the story. It’s well-suited for dystopian novels, but it can really fit in any time period and any style.

By contrast, Noblebright has at least one character that strives to attain a certain nobility. In a lot of ways, they’re paragons, or at least want to be. Here’s a clip from a website about it: 

“The character is flawed, but his or her actions are generally defined by honesty, integrity, sacrifice, love, and kindness. The story upholds the goodness of the character; the character’s good qualities are not held up as naiveté, cluelessness, or stupidity, but rather shown to be worthwhile. Good characters can make a difference. Noblebright characters can learn and grow. They can deliberately choose to be kind when tempted to be unkind, they can choose generosity when it hurts, and they can influence their world and other characters for the better.“

It goes on to say that even if the world is an unholy dystopian mess, the overall tone of the style is hopeful, inspiring.

Yes, characters, like people are complicated, and we don’t always know how to choose good, because we might not be fully aware of what “good” is. That’s OK, it’s all a part of the exploration and the growth.

So often, in tabletop RPGs, players leap for the evil side of the alignment scale. It’s not only easier, but in many cases, more fun to play someone that’s a crazy, bloodthirsty murder hobo. In a world without consequences, who would blame them?

But a big, big part of the reason why I made The Hero’s Tale game and taught it to my sons, and why I’m writing the story of A Tale of Heroes, is that it’s better to be a good guy.

So, now, I’m proud to announce that all of this, the game, the story, is part of the Noblebright movement! 

Monday, May 13, 2019

125 - “Dragons or Not Dragons” - Korr - A Tale of Heroes

Here's how you can read the story a week (two scenes) ahead of everyone else!

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“And I saw a whole flight of ’em, I swear it! There musta been a half a dozen!”

As Korr and Parith stepped through the flimsy wooden door of the pub, many sets of eyes turned to look. It was dim inside and more than a bit smokey. There were a few lanterns hung from rusty nails hammered into pillars and rafters. Normally, they wouldn't have been lit this early in the day, but the heavy overcast skies and the looming storm made them necessary.

The lanterns shone down on a few tables in a main common hall. To their left was a stone hearth. The fire was not lit on this summer afternoon, even if it was a chilly one. Three men, all human, huddled around a table off to Korr's right. After sizing up Korr and Parith, they returned to their argument.

“They were not dragons.”

“I tell ya, they were! I saw them, flyin’ o'er the city in the deep o’ last night!”

“They weren't dragons. They were drakes. They hide in the high rafters of a few tall churches. Some live in the understreet drains. You see one of them flying about every few months.”

“Aye, but these were bigger than the little drakes!” the first man, shorter and stockier, said, “and there were a lot o’ them!”

Parith stepped further into the hall, past the hearth, but was stopped by a matronly, well-dressed woman in a long, billowy dress. It was lacier and frillier than most barmaid’s dresses, and a garish red and yellow, contrasting to the blues, browns, and roses of her not-at-all subtle makeup. Her large and plentiful jewelry pieces plainly announced to everyone around that she was in charge. She raised both her hands to signal them to not enter any further. She didn’t speak immediately, but eyed them quizzically.

Parith attempted a slight bow. “Pardon me, madam, is this where we might find those of the Guild of the Drunken Sword?”

Her eyes narrowed and her full cheeks stretched into a scowl. “That depends. You got a job you need done? You looking to hire?” Her voice was thin and nasal, and not at all like the daintiness of her clothes.

Parith glanced back at Korr, whose eyes narrowed. Tell her the truth. Parith continued, “Actually, no.”

She stepped to her left and Korr could see that she walked with both a limp and a cane.

“Then you’re wasting your time, then. We’re not taking on new membership right now.”

“Actually, my friend and I are looking merely for some ale,” Parith paused, “and some information.” As she hobbled to the back bar, he added, “We can pay for both.”

She shifted her weight behind the counter and tapped her long, reddened fingernail on it. Parith nudged Korr, who dug a few coppers out of his purse and set them on the counter, unsure of the right amount. Korr shot him a questioning glance, then added a silver to the stack. Parith nodded.

She smiled at the coins, then at her visitors, and began pouring drinks into tall tankards. “I’m sorry for the impatience. We’re a small guild, so we got to be careful. These are strange times. Our wizards are thinking they might have to go into hiding.”

She offered Korr his tankard and he took a sip. It tasted foul, like the ale had not aged well. He tried not to make a face.

She looked at him as if expecting him to and waiting for it. Finally, she said, “Well, there’s your ale. What information are you looking for?”

Korr and Parith both set their tankards down, and Korr said, “We’re looking for a man named Heathrax.”

She waited for him to say more, then shrugged. “What, that’s all you got? A name? Heathrax? What kinda name is that?” She looked at Parith, who also lifted his shoulders.

“We might assume that at one point, he was a great knight. My master spent some time defending the throne, so they may have met in His Majesty’s service.”

She grunted, then screamed out, “Hey, Chokkar!” One of the men who had been arguing at the table turned around in response. “They’re looking for some old knight. Sir Hatrack or something.” The man wandered over to the bar.

“Sir Hatrack?” He laughed.

“Heathrax.” Korr corrected, “And we believe he may have been a knight.”

The man paused and set his own drink on the bar. He was fairly young, but his unkempt beard and frizzy hair made him look much older. “Well, if he was a knight, they’d have a record of his Accolade Ceremony. That would be in the archives of the Cathedral in CentreTown. You could look there.”

Parith frowned and choked down another sip. “That’s a problem. They won’t let us into CentreTown, much less the holiest of cathedral archives.”

“Pfft! That’s nothin’” The man scoffed, “Romey over there can make you papers. He’ll get ya in, for sure!”

Korr looked at Parith, who smirked and nodded. Korr sighed loudly and reached for his purse, yet again.



<<<>>>



This continues the story of the heroes in Wynne, in Twynne Rivers, in the world of The Hero's Tale, Family Friendly RPGs. Here's more info on The Hero's Tale, and family friendly RPGing. If you like this story, support us at our Patreon!
Thank you: Chet Cox, Genevieve Springer!

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Thursday, May 9, 2019

124 - “How Did I Get Here?” - Korr - A Tale of Heroes

Here's how you can read the story a week (two scenes) ahead of everyone else!

<<<>>>

“Where are you leading me this morning, Parith?” Korr shifted the strap of his leather and cloth satchel over his shoulder so he could pull his shirt more tightly around him. A cool breeze chilled him. The sky was a dark grey overcast and it would probably rain soon. For now, his sandals shuffled on the dusty streets of the Twynne Rivers OuterWall. Even with the chill and the clouds, there were still lots of people on the streets and Korr struggled to keep up with Parith’s quick-footed pace.

“We didn't have much luck in the pubs yesterday,” Parith explained over his shoulder, “and they wouldn't let us in Centre Town to see the library, so I thought we'd try an adventurer's guild. One of the innkeepers yesterday told us about this one, remember? The Guild of the Drunken Sword. Apparently they take their payments in ale as well as cash. Maybe they’ll know how to find someone.”

In spite of his own skepticism, Korr followed. They turned from the wide and busy street onto a much smaller side road. The heavy cloud cover and the closeness of the shops and homes made it much darker than it should be on a summer morning, nearing noon.

Parith held his elbows tight against his side, but his thin, loose shirt did little against the wind. It swirled up dust and debris left in the alleyway as it blew past them.

“So,” he said, shrugging his shoulders in, “Heathrax, Heathrax, Heathr--how did you manage to get this quest, anyway? Did your master just walk up to you with a note and tell you to take it to him?”

The road turned and snaked between buildings and structures, some of which were little more than scrap planks of wood tethered together to make a sort of shanty. Others were more solidly-built houses of wooden beams and stucco, but few were more than one level. Dusty children shouted and ran between the passers-by. Chickens clucked and scratched as if the neighborhood were their dinner plate.

As he walked, Korr responded, “At the Academy, we study the fighting arts and work to become more connected to our world and our lives. We are striving to master our souls and our bodies. Once we achieve a certain level of progress, we must complete a Challenge before we continue. Each disciple must choose a task, a difficult quest, and then must leave the safety of the academy home to accomplish it. The ones that succeed and return can continue their studies.”

“Some don’t return?”

“Some find it too difficult, give up, and then choose to go their own way. A few don’t survive.”

Parith stepped over a small barrel in his path. “So, what, you just raised your hand and said, ‘Hey, I'll take the one with the least instructions’, right?”

Korr sighed as they walked. How long do I have to endure this irreverence? “While my fellow disciples were choosing their Challenges and planning their journeys, I contemplated all that my master had done for me and how he had changed my life.”

Parith stopped and looked at Korr, as if sensing something important was coming.

“So, rather than choosing my own task, I asked him if there were something he wanted to have done, some service I could do for him. I remember he smiled at me with a bit of surprise. Then he thought a moment and asked me to deliver a greeting to an old friend.”

Korr narrowed his eyes as a smile danced across Parith's face. “That's it?” Parith asked, stifling a laugh. “Nothing like--Oh, I don't know--killing some horrendous beast or finding a lost gem of power? No princesses to rescue or oppressors to topple...?”

Korr straightened and took in a breath. “I consider it an honor that he would send me on a personal mission so meaningful.”

They walked on. “But your master didn't tell you how to find him.”

Korr was thoughtful as they turned another corner. “Actually, I asked my master about that.” Korr paused when Parith looked around and stopped, a mild look of surprise on his smile. “I asked him why he couldn't simply take a rest from teaching to visit his friend. I said it might be more joyful for him to see his friend side by side. Or, maybe he could be contacted by the power of an oculus.”

Parith shook his head to get his hair out of his eyes. “And?”

“And what?”

Parith nudged Korr's arm. “What did he say?”

“He said that if he did that then it wouldn't be a challenging task for me.”

Parith couldn't help but let go of all the laughter he’d been holding in. Korr scowled. “You mock me- and my master!”

“Yes, I do, friend!” he said, then urged, “Oh, relax! The more I know you, the more you fascinate me! It may well be to my doom, but, hey, I’ll follow you on your adventure. I guess I can help you earn a mission badge for your shirt.”

Parith stepped toward the door of the pub where they had been standing.

Korr followed, “Actually, it’ll be a tattoo.”


<<<>>>



This continues the story of the heroes in Wynne, in Twynne Rivers, in the world of The Hero's Tale, Family Friendly RPGs. Here's more info on The Hero's Tale, and family friendly RPGing. If you like this story, support us at our Patreon!
Thank you: Chet Cox, Genevieve Springer!

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Monday, May 6, 2019

123 - “Learning Art, Learning Life” - Korr - A Tale of Heroes

Here's how you can read the story a week (two scenes) ahead of everyone else!

<<<>>>

A damp and almost cold wind rushed through the open spaces in the bell tower, blowing across Korr and his blanket. Korr was used to being uncomfortable. His height, and his gangly and clumsy frame, had always made it difficult to fit into places, like beds, doorways, and bell towers.

In the dormitory of the academy where he had grown up, there had been more room than this, but the reedy and spindly mattresses were still never quite long enough for his legs or his head. The fact that he had been crowded into a room with a half dozen other disciples did not make it any more livable.

Korr had struggled to learn the motions and forms of the art. Where other, even younger students advanced much more quickly, his body didn’t respond as naturally to the quickness and delicate motions it required. He remembered extra hours of practice in the stone-floored courtyard, sparring with other disciples. They had been patient with him, but he never got close to their skill level. Many times, he ended up with his back painfully flat on the hard stones, staring up to the clouds in the sky. Sometimes, when they would practice after evening meals and meditations, he would end up looking at the stars like he did now. In any case, he always seemed to be on the losing end of the throw.

The others were quick to laugh at his position, but also quick to give him a hand up to try again. The master said that even if he wasn’t learning to fight, he was learning how to live.

When he had begun growing into a young man, after thirteen or fourteen winters, the master and a few of the older disciples had talked to him. It was a night he remembered well. They had been in the meditation hall, one dark winter evening. The large open space was lit by a central fire in a large pit, and dozens of candles glowing around the perimeter of the room. All of the disciples had ended their meditations and stood to leave. Korr had remained, eyes closed, head bowed, with his face to the fire, struggling to clear his troubles from his mind.

He heard the brushing of robes and opened his eyes to see three of the older, most skilled students sitting near him, bowing their heads. They all wore their daily white meditation robes, and they glowed with a bit of yellow gold in the candle light.

Korr glanced from one face to another in the quiet dim. The smell of smoke and candle wax filled the hall. He wondered why they were here. I must be in some kind of trouble.

In a moment, the master stepped into his view, also in white. He was an old man, with very long and thin white hair, and a long beard. Korr had seen him on the sparring floor, however, and knew of his prowess. His seemingly frail arms moved without effort, and the disciples he opposed twisted and tossed around him as he breezed between them, leaving them all flat on the floor. Korr knew he would never be at the master’s level.

The master clapped twice, quickly, and all of the disciples there looked to him at the signal.

“Maan Korr is your brother. He is diligent and his effort is constant and true.” The master said. Korr didn’t smile, even with the compliment, because he sensed there was more coming. “But he struggles to learn the forms and the movements of the art. Even some of the simpler motions are beyond his grasp.”

Korr’s dropped his head. He knew what was coming. He was not keeping up. He would be sent away. The silence in the room, sparked only by the crackling of the fire, hung heavy on his shoulders.

“What are his weaknesses?” the master asked.

The others hesitated, unsure. Finally, one of them spoke. “He is not so nimble.”

“His movements aren’t quick enough.”

“He tries, but he doesn’t execute properly.”

“He struggles to keep his balance.”

Then it was quiet. Korr bowed his head low to the floor, partly to show deference, and partly to hide himself.

The master continued, “And what are his strengths?”

This question surprised Korr at first. Even though, in practice, the master always showed the things the disciples did right and wrong, he had not expected this.

“His arms and legs are strong.”

“That’s true! When he does land a hit, you know you’ve been hit!” A ripple of laughter went through them. Korr raised his head, confused. The others were looking at him, smiling. He wondered if they were mocking him, but they didn’t seem to be. The master stepped in front of him and got down on his knees.

He said, “So, what can be done? What has to change?”

Korr looked around in wonder. What was going on? What would happen to him?

One of the other disciples raised her finger and suggested, “We could practice with him more.”

Another said, “We could help him with his forms!” Others nodded.

The old master shook his head. “He already practices more than anyone else. That hasn’t helped.”

Once again, the hall fell silent. Korr felt a cold wind blow down from the smoke vent in the ceiling. He wanted to pull his robes more tightly around him, but he didn't dare move.

A motion from his right. Another disciple raised a finger with hesitation, but didn’t speak.

The master noticed and nodded to him. The boy cleared his throat and finally bowed his head. “Master, you have taught us that we should find the weakness of our opponents, right? That we should shape the art of the fight to those weaknesses, right?” The master nodded and the student continued, “What if we were to shape the art to Korr’s strengths?”

The master stood and clapped his hands twice again. Korr looked up as the master smiled and nodded. Korr suddenly saw that this is where the master had wanted the discussion to go all along. He looked at his fellow disciples in wonder and disbelief.

“This will be a difficult task. You will be creating a new art, a new style. You four will begin in the morning. You will work with strength and stability instead of quickness and balance. You will all learn much in the process.” He stepped away, his robes flowing, and glanced back at Korr with a nod.

Korr had immediately bowed low, this time with deep gratitude and relief. His eyes had dripped tears onto the wooden floor as his friends patted his shoulders and left.

Korr lay back on the wooden floor of the bell tower, with his fingers laced behind his head. He breathed deep, staring out of the window spaces and savoring the chilly breeze blowing through them.

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This continues the story of the heroes in Wynne, in Twynne Rivers, in the world of The Hero's Tale, Family Friendly RPGs. Here's more info on The Hero's Tale, and family friendly RPGing. If you like this story, support us at our Patreon!
Thank you: Chet Cox, Genevieve Springer!

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Thursday, May 2, 2019

122 - “Another Part of the Plan” - Tonklyn - A Tale of Heroes

Here's how you can read the story a week (two scenes) ahead of everyone else!

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The inn was one of the finest in the CenterTowne quarter of Twynne Rivers. It had cost Tonklyn a couple of gold pieces to the house master just to be considered for a room. But this was no Outer Wall corner pub, either. This was a tall stone structure with fine rugs on the floors and delicate sheets on the thick, padded mattresses. Heavy velvet curtains hung from the posts of the bed. An ornate table with a set of fine porcelain basin, pitcher, and cups, as well as thick, soft washcloths. All sat at the ready, waiting for him to wash before sleeping.

He wore a loose, light night robe that flowed as he stepped across the room. He picked up a wine  glass that he had poured a few minutes ago and walked through a doorway to the left of the table. He stepped out onto a narrow stone balcony overlooking the city.

A chilling breeze blew past him, rustling his night robe and his hair. There air was cooler than it had been, and carried a hint of dampness. That will bring clouds, and maybe rain tomorrow. I hope it lingers.

He had spent a lot of his time on this journey remembering his recent changes of fortune, going from simple scholar boy to the Chancellor of the future Dragon King. His time with his new master had been both exciting and terrifying. If the old scholars and high priests that he had slaved for only knew what was to hit them... In only a few days. Then, soon enough, this entire kingdom will shake to its knees. 

The shadows on the balcony behind him hissed and billowed, sending an unnatural chill past him. He had known his master would contact him. That's the only reason why he wasn't already in bed and asleep. It had been a long day.

“Tell me,” the dragon's voice whispered through the shadows, “of the meeting. Is the attack in place? Is everyone ready?”

 Tonklyn's lips turned a bit in a subtle smile. He's like a child hoping that acrobats will come to the festival. 

“Yes. All is ready. Drakes and mages are gathering as we speak. Though our brothers in the Church are not so confident.” He didn't even try to hide his sarcastic disdain.

“They can't back out!” The shadows rippled with anger.

“Clearly not. At this point, events will proceed, regardless.” Tonklyn hoped that would stay off his master’s wrath, but it only seemed to anger him more.

“The Bishops might betray us. We must strike swiftly!” Rage was building in the dragon's voice. Tonklyn tensed.

Find your calm. Breathe deep. Ease your fear. He thought of his reminiscing through the past few days and focused on Kirraxal's voice. The dragon had learned to speak common much more clearly than he had when they first met. Thinking about this detail allowed him to keep his own emotions in check.

“They won't betray us, I think. That would reveal their own involvement.” He took a deep calming breath. “Truly, I feel confident that all will go well.” After a moment, Tonklyn continued, “Although I agree that it's a good idea to quicken the attack by a day. That opportunity will catch the Church by surprise and allow us to sow more chaos.”

Kirraxal didn't respond immediately and Tonklyn sensed a calming coming through the darkness. “That will serve me well,” the shadows finally said, then added, “did you discover the cathedral archives?”

Tonklyn’s shoulders tensed again and he took in a sharp breath. He felt that same wave of fear every time he had to tell his master anything bad. It wasn’t easy, but he had learned to walk the delicate balance between frankness and equivocation. This time, he chose the former. “No, sire, not yet. They have an extensive library near the main hall, but--”

“Let that be your primary task then! There is a good chance that the dagger and the scrolls we seek will be found there. If you can find it, the chaos of the attack will give you an excellent opportunity to plunder it.”

Tonklyn exhaled. “Yes, sire. It will be done!” He hoped that his voice sounded convincing. Or do I need to convince myself?

The shadows warped and twisted one last time, and the voice hissed out, “Good. Do not fail me, human.”

“No, sire. I will not!” Tonklyn said as the normal darkness of the night returned. “I will not,” he repeated, alone once again.


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This continues the story of the heroes in Wynne, in Twynne Rivers, in the world of The Hero's Tale, Family Friendly RPGs. Here's more info on The Hero's Tale, and family friendly RPGing. If you like this story, support us at our Patreon!
Thank you: Chet Cox, Genevieve Springer!

Previous Scene, Next Scene
Start the whole story from the beginningStart from where this current story arc begins. Start from where the current story part begins